Category Archives: NZ poems

Poetry Shelf review: Starling 8 Winter 2019

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Read the journal here

I have poetry interviews on the go, poetry reviews on the go, a leaning tower of poetry books to read (this morning it toppled), questions for me to answer for my new books, a study that needs sorting after four years of intense work ( it needs to be like the clean sheet before I begin again), a house that needs spring cleaning, a veggie garden that needs weeding, fruit trees that need planting, novels that call to be read, doodles that need doodling ….. and after being awake for hours with the marine forecast and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s pilot memoir on RNZ National all I feel like doing is making a lemon honey and ginger drink and reading the brand new Starling.

Starling is edited by Starling founder Louise Wallace and Francis Cooke and publishes the work of writers under 25 which is a very good thing. Starling always exposes me to new voices that I am dead keen to read more from.

This issues includes the work of 20 writers, an eye-opening interview with Brannavan Gnanalingam and the extra cool cover art of Jessica Thompson Carr. It is women rich, there is fire and cut and lyricism. I loved every piece of writing – no dull grey spots. Just an inspired and inspiring celebration of what young writers are doing

 

Here are a few tastes to get you linking.

Tate Fountain is a writer, actor and student in Auckland. Her tour-de -force poem ‘Dolores’ busts up form, ‘you’,  expectation and what good is poetry. It gently kicks you in the gut with ‘ashes in the back of a car’ and shakes your heart with ‘maybe craft is love and love is attention’. The pronouns are adrift as the lines stutter and break;  F Scott Fitzgerald makes an appearance, and Kandinsky. Sheez this poem electrifies. I am now on the hunt for Tate’s Letters; she describes it ‘perhaps [..] blasphemously as an extended chapbook’.

Nithya Narayanan is currently doing a conjoint degree (BA / LLB) at the University of Auckland. Her poem ‘Hiroshima’ held me in one long gasp as the mother / daughter relationship links the title to the final ‘bomb’ stanza. This is confession at its most radioactive (excuse the pun) with a rhythm that pulls and detail that hooks.

Rose Peoples is a student at Victoria University. Her poetry has appeared in Mimicry and Cordite. Her extraordinary poem ‘The Politics of Body Heat’ begins with a woman pegging washing on a line, then moves through cold and sexism, female syndromes and disappearances. You just must read it.

Think –
Have they forgotten the fear
of a cold hand on the back of the neck?
The dread of an icy whisper?
Remember this –
It is easy to disappear in the cold.

 

Morgan McLaughlin is an English lit graduate and describes herself as a fierce feminist. It shows in her poem ‘1-4’, four prose-poem pieces that subvert numerical order as clearly as they lay down a challenge to patriarchy. The writing is lucid, sharp as a blade and deliciously rhythmic.  I would love to hear this read aloud. I want to read more.

Meg Doughty recently completed an Honours degree in English at Victoria University of Wellington. She says she is a reactionary writer who is fascinated by the everyday mystic. Her poem is like two heavenly long inhalations that pick up all manner of things, herbs, birds, cats, fire, and I am caught up in the idea of poetry as breath (again, see today’s Herald!!). Then I reach the end of the poem and here is the poet breathing:

I stir
hover over the steam
and breathe in
I know how to live in this world

 

Mel Ansell is a Wellington poet whose brocade-like poem ‘Cook, Little Pot, Cook’ (I have used this term before) shimmers and sparks with surprise arrivals as I read. Ah poetry bliss where food and love and place and home rub close together.
Rebecca Hawkes is in the recently published AUP New Poets 5 with Sophie van Waardenberg and Carolyn DeCarlo. She has a cluster of poems here that show her dazzling word play, the way images and detail build so you are swimming through the poetic layers with a sense of exhilaration (it was like that when I heard her read at the launch). Her poetry is so on my radar at the moment.

I want to read more from Danica Soich.

Joy Tong is a Year 13 student at St Cuthbert’s College. ‘Tiny Love Poem‘ is pitch perfect.

Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch but is currently studying to complete her Honours in Classics at the University of Auckland. Her poem ‘Bukit Ibam, 1968’ is so divinely spare but opens up inside me, like an origami flower that unfolds family:

a story in a cage. dad,
you recount my grandmother
through the mosquito netting baking
tiny raised cakes.

 

Thanks Louise and Francis. This is a terrific issue. Now I need to head back to my long list of jobs to do before I head back down to Wellington for National Poetry Day.

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Frankie McMillan reads ‘The Honking of Ducks’

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‘The Honking of Ducks’ is a prose poem from Frankie’s new collection The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other small fictions, Canterbury University Press, 2019.

 

 

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer. She has published five books including My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions, long listed for the 2017 NZ Ockham awards. In 2018 she co edited Bonsai best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. She has won a number of awards and in 2014 held the Ursula Bethell writing residency at Canterbury University. In 2017 she held the University of Auckland/Michael King writing residency. Her forthcoming book The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other stories will be launched by Canterbury University Press on August 31st 2019.

 

Canterbury University press author page

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Sugar Magnolia Wilson picks Hera Lindsay Bird’s ‘ Kiss me harder, Abraham Lincoln’

 

Kiss me harder, Abraham Lincoln

 

In poems you can do anything you like. You can start fires, or break the law. You can break the law by starting fires. You can set fire to the house of your worst enemy. In poetry, you can have worst enemies. In real life, I’m still working on it. In terms of candidates there’s that dickhead at the salad bar, not to mention the girl who used to ring me up and scream at me, but I’ve got a new phone number now and as much as I hate the salad guy, I’d like to think that I’m a contentious citizen who wouldn’t intentionally try to burn his house down. Besides, I don’t have his address. But I’m totally onto you, salad man! In poems you can make out with whoever you like, even if they died forever ago. In poems you can say, ‘Oh Abraham Lincoln, kiss me harder.’ I have a friend who’s angry at poetry because he says it makes life more beautiful than it really is, which is a dumb reason to hate anything. Hating poetry because it makes life more beautiful is like hating ketchup on your burger because it makes your burger more delicious than it really is, or hating the swans on the lake, for making the lake seem more peaceful. Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around like a toilet paper commercial? Sometimes all I want is a poem that feels like real life. Something directionless and frightened, without any literary subtext, or clever double meanings. Clever double meanings are like those magic eye puzzle. You can get really good at seeing the hidden picture, but in the end you’re still the asshole sitting in the library at lunchtime saying ‘I can’t believe you guys can’t see the dolphins,’ to no-one, because your friends all left hours ago. Sometimes all I want is the poet to come clean and say, ‘I have no idea how to live.’ Sometimes I just want to list some things that I like. That song ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King.’ The names of lipsticks. Poached eggs on a stack of potato cakes. Houses. Flowers. Swamps and the monsters who live in them.  The internet.

 

Hera Lindsey Bird

The poem originally appeared in Sport 40, 2012 in a slightly different version.

 

 

Sugar Magnolia Wilson on ‘Kiss me harder, Abraham Lincoln’

I had a dream a few weeks ago that I asked Hera why she’d changed the line “Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around all serene?” to “Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around like a toilet paper commercial”. The first iteration comes from an issue of Sport back yonky-donks ago, I think 2011 or 2012. So, I assume it was a poem written in her MA year at the IIML. It was the first time I’d read anything by Hera, and I think the first time I’d really read anything by a young New Zealand poet that really spoke to me. In fact, I’m not sure I even knew that people under 300 could have poems published in New Zealand.

I think the toilet paper version is what’s in her book, and I feel like that line got snazzed up, but, I wish it hadn’t been snazzed. I love how not loud this poem is, how it’s almost bored. I read this line in a book once that said all beautiful girls are bored. And I think this is the poem version of that, a beautiful, bored girl. I love how it’s not trying to prove anything big or deep, but at the same time it stands up and says ‘you fucking know what? Poetry can be whatever the hell you want it to be” – it hits right at the heart of what old white dudes have been telling us poetry shouldn’t be since forever. But I’m totally onto you, poetry book guy! I think I took this poem too literally. I literally wrote a poem for my MA manuscript which was JUST a list of things I liked – my friend Ada, miso soup, small glittery things in dusty corners. No one in my class liked it. But I did and it was a confusing time.

I also love that this poem is like Dorian Gray, and Keats is Dead so Fuck Me From Behind is like his bloated painting in the attic. Or maybe this poem is like Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, and Keats is Dead is like his coked-out body lying on a velvet bed with a neon orange party hat on? See? It’s way harder than she makes it seem.

Anyway. It’s one of my all-time favourite classic NZ poems. It’s changed the way I write and I am so grateful to have encountered it when I did. I also love the poem Hooting, but Paula says I’m only allowed to write about one (she didn’t, I’m just too lazy). But read it here

 

 

Sugar Magnolia Wilson is from a valley called Fern Flat in the Far North of New Zealand. She completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012. Her work has been published in literary journals such as Turbine, Shenandoah, Cordite, Landfall and Sport. She is co-editing an anthology of the new generation of New Zealand poets with Hannah Mettner for AUP. Auckland University Press published her debut collection Because a Woman’s Heart Is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean earlier this year.

 

Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet from Wellington. Her debut collection Hera Lindsay Bird was published with Victoria University Press in 2016, and Penguin UK in 2017, and a Laureate’s Choice Pamphlet ‘Pamper Me to Hell & Back’ came out in 2018. She is an Arts Foundation new generation recipient, winner of the 2011 Adam Prize, the 2017 Jessie McKay Prize for Best First Book, and the 2017 Sarah Broom Prize.

 

 

Karlo Mila’s ‘Moemoea (Composed for Poets for Ihumātao)’

 

Moemoea (Composed for Poets for Ihumātao)

I have a dream….
Not a Martin Luther King dream
more of a waking life dream
where you’re in a parallel universe movie of your own making.

In my dream,
Jacinda is walking in knee high gumboots
the tall, skinny, expensive kind
you used to have to order from Great Britain
and that I could never pull over my big Tongan calves.

She is wearing a red, red raincoat,
not like a Kathmandu one with a zip.
It’s more of a cape,
fire-truck red, lipstick red, Labour party red.
More of a red-riding hood cape
and it is billowing in the whipping wind.

And the way she struts it could be a Horse Polo ad
but it’s not, cos she and her gumboots
are on the whenua at Ihumātao
and she’s not walking alone,
flanked, either side is Nanaia, Kiritapu, Willow-Jean
and Louisa who has the reddest lipstick of them all.
They all have knee high boots and red jackets
and there is Carmel, taller than the rest,
even though her boots are flat,
who used to rent our family home.
And there is Jenny, with a red flower behind her ear,
who used to be married to my ex-husband.
And there is ‘Anahila, my mate,
with her righteous Tongan afro, and Poto too.
And in my dream the soundtrack is Beyonce playing
“Who rules the world? Girls!”
And behind them is Jacinda’s baby-daddy
pushing Neve Te Aroha in an expensive water proof pram
which is just as well, cos there is thunder and lightning
as these women walk.
And it strikes me that he is the perfect,
mana-ful, woke male.
The lips of all these women are pursed.
Not like in selfies, but like they are purposeful.
And in my dream they are walking in slow mo
and Marama is there in her reggae beanie, laughing,
saying, what took you fellas so long.

In my dream,
Jacinda has read Dr Rawiri Taonui’s article
and as her plane landed on the Auckland tarmac
she thought for the first time
about all the bodies, all the bones, the koiwi
the ancestors who had to give up everything,
a clean awa, their land, kai moana, unpolluted ocean,
who had to give too much to the city of Auckland,
even their graves.

I dream Jacinda truly felt
that this history stinks like sewage
as she drove into the shit-show
that has been the water treatment plant.
And she visibly flinched when she saw the Proclamation
issued by corrupt Governor Grey
with his fake news about dangerous attacking natives
as he coveted Waikato-Tainui having the best land, flour mills, most fertile export businesses,
and imported and gathered 16,000 British imperial and colonial troops
telling the natives to surrender,
or they’d be ejected.

I hope she knows
the archeologists say
this is an OG settlement place
Where to quote Alice Te Punga Somerville
where Māori
“Once were Pacific”
and evolved, over centuries,
Right here,
from us
into them.
And I’m waving a Tongan flag
at this small way that we are connected
and in my dream
Pita Turei is not comparing me to Captain Cook
for doing this, but he’s down there on the atea
saying ‘haere mai’ Jacinda,
and he looks so beautiful,
with his feathers in his hair.

And in my dream, at this very moment
he turns into a bird
and then he is joined by an army of kahu
from Okahu Bay
a whole field full of black hawks
with surveyors pegs in their beaks
and a burning papa kainga in their eyes.
And yeah, maybe, a park for all New Zealanders
is not enough, although it was gifted generously after the occupation of Bastion Point.
And there are overlapping interests here
not just the fact that blood joins
in so many mokopuna,
but cos the kaupapa of Tino Rangatiratanga
is an overlapping interest.
And even Paul Majurey says, tautoko.

And then all the maunga are there,
cos Pihanga led the way
and just like Pania
she’s quite the mountain.
It’s Mana Wāhine on display
and there’s the red line up of women
walking in the mud
and I don’t know where Willie, Kelvin and Peeni are
but it’s my dream and I don’t need to know.
Willie is def not doing the fingers at the crowd
behind the glass doors at Parliament, like I saw him do last week.
Just cos men who have had their children taken by the state heckled him.
And to be honest
I’m sure uplift kaupapa is over,
it’s time for uplifting.

And in my dream, all the boots on those women
are now thigh high and they are all wearing
ei katu of red flowers
made by my friend Ta’i,
cos it’s Cook Islands language week
and cos every woman looks more beautiful in an ei. Everyone.
And they are saying Kia Ora, Kia Orana.
And I am looking at Pania, Qiane, Amiria and the cousins.
Rihanna is singing, shining bright, bright like a diamond,
but not a blood diamond.
And Qiane says: “We don’t speak on behalf of Mana Whenua. We are Mana Whenua.”
And there is a sign in the sky,
not a tōhu but a billboard
and it says,
“Aotearoa, New Zealand. This LEADERSHIP is in dispute.”
And there are one hundred thousand likes on Facebook
and laughing, dancing GIFS and
emoji’s with love hearts in their eyes.

And then suddenly it is silent
and in my dream Jacinda stops
and takes off her gumboots
and is barefoot, skin to land,
and tears stream down her face
and she says, I can hear it,
I can feel the whenua singing.

Once you know it,
you cannot unknow it.

We do not hurt the things we love.

And in amidst that magic,
somewhere online
a give-a-little page
has gone viral
and people are buying back
Ihumātao, square metre by square metre,
and the soundtrack is playing Midnight Oil
and the donations pour in
Asians for Tino Rangatiratanga
the Muslim community
the Tongan church congregations
who give more than they can afford
because that’s how we roll
and the amounts are printed online
and even Don Brash donates because,
no he doesn’t, because not even in a dream!
But nobody cares,
because he is old news
and now girls rule the world.
And Jacinda stands up and says
to the international community
This is a win for climate change.
This is a win for indigenous people everywhere.
This is a win for community.
This is a win for New Zealand.
This is a win for Auckland.
This is a win for the whenua.
The soundtrack is playing ”We are the people”
by Louis Baker.
And even Tina Ngata says,
she did better than Helen Clark.
And on TV
beautiful Kanoa Lloyd
rapturous in red
sits there
queen of the prime time universe
and with a smug side-eye at her colleagues
she interviews Joe Blogs
from the heart of Remuera
about why he gave a little
and then he explains
that after coming to the whenua himself
and taking the tour with Pania
and reading about the history
he finally understood
that the people of Ihumātao
had given enough
to make Auckland great.

And it was time to stop taking.

Or living off the back of benefits
Of unjustly taken land.

It was time to give a little back.
He said. Actually, it was time
to give a lot.

And somewhere,
in Tāmaki
all the birds waiting
with surveyor pegs
in their mouths,
both extinct and living,
spat them from the
choke in their throats
and the black hawks
began to sing.

And all the people everywhere,
who can hear the dawn chorus of the dead,
locked in psychatric wards and prisons cells,
began to hum a happier tune
instead of feeling lament.

And somewhere,
Te Whiti, Tōhu, Te Kooti, Rua, Rewi, Tāwhiao,
Eva, Whina, Ngāneko and all the ancestors,
began to sing.
Knowing now,
the tongues of birds.

And us ordinary ones,
without the gifts of sight or sound,
if you listen carefully
you can catch a fragment
of that waiata,
you can hear it
in the refrain of
Rob Ruha’s new song,
and it
sounds like
freedom.

 

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Karlo read this poem last night at Poets for Ihumātao – on the whenua.

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Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jess Fiebig’s ‘Summer’

 

Summer 2016

 

that summer was heavy, thick

I felt myself weighted,

struggling to move through air

it was underwater with open eyes

breathless and pressurised

seeing everything through

the blur and sting

of sea water

 

my new breasts were tight and hard in my chest,

and I had to sleep on my back for the first time;

my body was an unfamiliar collection of bones,

brittle as shells, and freshly bleached hair.

 

it was an achingly empty summer,

it was bitten, itchy skin,

damp thighs rubbing on denim,

it was bare chested and freckled,

salt licking new scars

 

it was the season of lemons

softening in the bowl,

damp fur, and fingernails bitter and green

from tearing and linking

daisy stems

 

it was clotted black blood, sprinklers,

strawberries and razorblades,

it was warm, long nights alone

 

it was the summer of the 6 am hate poem,

the first summer the soles of my feet

grew thick and hard

and as I watched shadows stretch

and felt cool wind come off the water,

it was the summer

I fell in love with

myself.

 

Jess Fiebig

 

 

Jess Fiebig is a nationally-recognised poet, educator and performer living in Otautahi/Christchurch, New Zealand. Her writing has featured in journals such as Aotearotica, Catalyst, Landfall, takahē, Turbine, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Best New Zealand Poems 2018. Jess was commended in the 2017 and 2018 New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competitions and was highly commended in 2019 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. Her poetry explores themes such as madness, sex, love, family violence, friendship, drugs and dislocation. Jess teaches creative writing and is a tutor at the Christchurch School for Young Writers.  Jess’s website.